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Texas Porlieria

Guayacan, Guajacum, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Soapbush, Guaiacum angustifolium (Porlieria angustifolia) <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


Not well known outside its distinct range in Texas and Mexico, where it is rather common, Guayacan is an unusual shrub with potential as an ornamental both within and outside of its normal habitat. Its stout, stubby, gnarled branches grow densely upright into a rather large shrub usually around 8 to 10 feet tall, although it can reach 20 feet. The tiny, leathery, dark green linear leaves are just as densely crowded along the stiff, knotty gray stems. They fold up at night and at mid-day to conserve water. The beautiful but small (1/3 to 3/4 inches across), purple, fragrant flowers appear in clusters from March through September, usually after rains. Equally if not more showy are the large, shiny red seeds that burst from a heart-shaped capsule in fall. Guayacan grows in arroyos and shrub lands in South Texas, into West Texas to Pecos and BrewsterCounties, and into Northern Mexico. It will grow in sun or semi-shade, in poor and rocky soil, but is adaptable to different soil types as long as they are well-drained. Its deep taproot and small leaves make it very drought tolerant. In severe winters it will freeze to the ground and sprout again from the roots in spring. Because of Guayacan's interesting, crooked form, it is wise to let it grow to its natural shape. Its compact form and dense evergreen foliage makes it excellent as cover for wildlife. It is a good honey plant, and its hard wood is sometimes used for fence posts. In Mexico the bark of the root is used as a source of soap. Unfortunately, it is rarely available in nurseries.

Plant Habit or Use: medium shrub, large shrub, small tree

Exposure: sun, partial sun

Flower Color: purple

Blooming Period: spring and summer

Fruit Characteristics: orange capsule with red seeds

Height: 8 to 20 feet

Width: 8 to 20 feet

Plant Character: evergreen

Heat Tolerance: very high

Water Requirements: very low

Soil Requirements: adaptable

USDA Hardiness Zone: 8


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